Writing a post naming my top ten books was not my idea. Someone requested it. I’ve never had a blogging request before. I’m flattered, but also at a loss. Off the hundreds of books I’ve read, how can I possibly pick just ten? I can’t. Not really. Once I pick the top ten, I’ll remember something else I read, the book that changed my 16-year-old self, which means something entirely different now that I’m 33, but will always be a part of my soul, my heart.
See, now I’ve gone off the deep end.
Anyway, here’s a tentative list, in no particular order. It’s hard enough to pick ten, much less rank them.
I’ve read this approximately 273 times. It’s my “go-to” when I don’t know what to read. It’s charming, witty, romantic, and is single-handedly responsible for every dissatisfied feeling I’ve had about the man in my life. (Sorry for that, dear husband.)
This was my first foray into magical realism and I was enamored by the strangeness and the beauty of it. It paved the way for Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who, I must confess, I never took to like I did to Grossman. Maybe it was the new experience or the Holocaust connection–an event as fascinating as it is horrifying. Whatever it was, See Under: Love gets me right here. *hand over heart*
A tale of war, sacrifice, betrayal, and love. The first book to make me cry. And that beginning!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Dickens writes a run-on sentence like nobody’s business.
I read this in fifth grade and never forgot it. The story of Meg, coming of age as her sister, Molly, is dying from cancer. No sugar-coating. It’s grief, jealousy, sex, relationships, and family–all without being vulgar. I can’t wait until my daughters are old enough to read it.
This book is the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever read. I’m assuming that’s why Harper Lee never wrote another novel. How could she possibly follow To Kill A Mockingbird? If she did write another novel and it was as good as (or better than) her first, how could she possibly follow that? Better to just let it ride. (Lee did work with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood, a chilling, true account of multiple homicide in Holcomb, Kansas.)
Yes, it’s seven books, but it’s one long story. A magical, endearing, gut-wrenching story. I especially love reading them one after the other as Rowling’s writing got better and better. Added bonus? These books are appropriate for all ages. I love that.
Aside from Elizabeth Bennet, Anne (with an e) Shirley is my favorite female character. She’s delightful. I read this book to my daughter this summer and it’s one of my most precious memories. She loved it and I can’t wait to show her the mini-series, aside from that mess of a last movie (where did that story line come from?)
Hardy is depressing, Fate-obsessed, and “in your face” with this critique of Victorian principles. I wrote a killer research paper on this in college. Got an A. It was awesome. Don’t read Tess, or any Hardy work, for that matter, if you’re prone to melancholia, . It’s not happy stuff.
Okay, so it’s Memoir. But, come on, does anyone believe this is the absolute truth? Of course not. It is like a sophisticated version of the National Enquirer, combining my greatest pleasures in life–great writing and celebrity gossip. Hemingway sells out Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein (among others) and does it in such a way, the reader, at first, believes he’s a) being completely honest and b) doing it with the best of intentions. It’s classic Hemingway–drunk, arrogant, and macho–and I adore him for it. Hemingway knows how to describe food, weather, drink, pleasure, and pain using only the necessary words. Really, I could have listed any of his books in this slot, but this one is too…delicious. He’s kind of my idol, in a strictly literary sense, of course.
So, there it is. Ten books (more or less) I consider “The Best.” I’m already doubting my choices. How is there no Margaret Atwood on this list? What’s with all the YA? Surely, The Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher deserved a spot? What about the 20 or so books I haven’t read, sitting on my shelf over there? The thousands in the library, Barnes and Noble, and the used book store? What if my absolute favorite book of all time is one of those?
Ah, well. I’ll think about that next year, after I’ve read them. Who knows? This may be it. These may be the best books I’ve read. EVER.
Somehow, I doubt it.
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